That day in Tampa, I thought I'd be in several Super Bowls. But now, it's like I can't get back.
Super Bowl XVIII was so many Roman numerals ago. Allen didn't just play in that game, back in January 1984, he owned it, with 191 yards rushing, a 9.6-yard average and the MVP trophy. Allen's Los Angeles Raiders flattened the Washington Redskins 38-9. Allen was 23.
"I just remember being in a zone," Allen says. "I was amazed how easy things went. On my long [74-yard] touchdown run, I remember thinking how no one would ever catch me and getting to the end zone and seeing the Redskins' cheerleaders crying. On the sidelines [Raider linebacker] Matt Millen tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the scoreboard. It said, MARCUS ALLEN, SUPER BOWL XVIII MVP."
Allen, who as a Raider played on the last AFC team to win a Super Bowl, flashes ahead to last season's abrupt end. "The memories are enough to make me want so badly to go back," he says. "If this team doesn't have insomnia over what happened last year, something isn't right."
For the most part, both teams are intact from a year ago. Kansas City re-signed 47 of 53 players, and the two key starters it lost—defensive end Darren Mickell and wideout Willie Davis—have been replaced by Booker and Vanover, who are at least their equals. The Chiefs addressed their kicking needs by acquiring Pete Stoyanovich from the Miami Dolphins. Every significant offensive starter returns to Green Bay but left tackle Ken Ruettgers, who will miss at least the first six weeks of the season with a knee injury. And the Pack has shored up its secondary with one of the game's most underrated safeties, former Seattle Seahawk Eugene Robinson.
Those expected to challenge Green Bay are—for the moment, at least—looking shaky. "We have the thinnest team in pro football," Dallas coach Barry Switzer says. The San Francisco 49ers are forever shuffling their offensive line and are weak at running back. The Pittsburgh Steelers? With the departure of quarterback Neil O'Donnell to the New York Jets, they might finally feel the pinch of losing a key free agent.
So get ready for the Nostalgia Bowl. Here's how it will go: Favre staggers the Chiefs with two first-half touchdown passes, one to tight end Keith Jackson, the other to wideout Robert Brooks. But he's getting hit too much. Defensive end Neil Smith puts his stamp on the best pass-rushing season in the NFL, getting his 18th and 19th sacks of the year in the third quarter and forcing a fumble on the latter. Booker recovers, and Allen follows with his second TD run of the day. Early in the fourth quarter Vanover breaks six tackles on a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Packers are up 24-21 now, but with two minutes left Kansas City faces a third-and-three at the Green Bay eight.
Under a heavy rush, quarterback Steve Bono flutters a pass to Allen in the right flat. "I felt like a New York cabbie on Broadway at five in the afternoon," Allen, the MVP again, will say later. He weaves through a sea of green jerseys and lunges across the goal line. Chiefs 28, Packers 24.
Allen trots to the sideline, ball in hand. The clock ticks down. It's a final. Allen hands the ball to Schottenheimer, and the two embrace. "You deserve this," Allen says to a teary-eyed Schottenheimer.
"You deserve it more," Schottenheimer replies, handing the ball back.